Routed Slot Car Tracks – in cooperation with BSCRA

Some exciting news to tell to our readers. We are working together with the British Slot Car Racing Association to bring you this post on routed slot car tracks..

What are routed slot car tracks?

Routed slot car tracks differ from the more common plastic track for home use in the following ways. First of all the tracks themselves are made out of sheet material, such as MDF. Very inexpensive pieces of construction material that will help you keep costs down as you do this build.

To construct routed tracks you don’t need to be a construction expert, but some basic understanding of power tools is advised.

Construction

As mentioned a decent sized track is very inexpensive to build. Most of the expense involves the time required to actually build it. Anyone with basic woodworking skills should be able to complete an average sized track project in 3 or 4 weekends.

Chris Frost over at the British Slot Car Racing Association has written up a detailed guide on how to start constructing a routed slot track for your club. We’ll delve in to the first chapter here:

First Chapter

So you’ve got this great track  design, designed with the help of (or in spite of) the track design web pages. How do you go about building it? If you’ve got the funds, track builders like Steve Ogilvie in Canada or the Lars Harrysson in Sweden will do the job for you. If not the only option is to build it yourself.

Please be aware of your own limitations. If you are not comfortable operating power tools in this build then  don’t do it. Let someone in your club who is more experienced take the load of your hands.

The Track Surface

There are two types of board most suitable for the surface of routed slot car tracks. MDF (medium density fibre board) and chipboard.

Chipboard is the traditional material, it produces an adequately smooth surface, and is the cheaper option. MDF has been used in a number of recently built tracks. It produces a smoother surface and a smoother slot, it is better structurally. MDF is a little heavier, but perhaps thinner sheet can be used.

The minimum thickness for the track surface is 12mm (1/2 inch), although if you are using chipboard, a greater thickness is an advantage.

The “standard size” for board is 2.4m by 1.2m (8 ft. by 4 ft.) sheets. Smaller sheets are available, but are almost always much worse value for money. Joints between sheets make extra work and tend to cause bumps so smaller sheets are not a good idea. Its worth shopping around for board – the first do-it-yourself superstore you come across may well be expensive, particularly compared with the prices paid by someone “in the trade”.

Extra Support

The board that forms the track surface will sag under its own weight unless some support is provided.

The traditional way of doing this was to put wooden battens underneath. A piece running lengthways each side and cross pieces every 40-60 cm. (16in – 2ft).  Some tracks used 25×50 mm (2×1 inch) timber, but this was a bit too flexible, and 75mm (3in) depth was more satisfactory.

Timber tends to expand and contract with temperature and humidity changes at roughly the same rate as the surface boards, so there is limited warping problems.
More recently MDF surfaced tracks have been built using strips of MDF on edge in place of the timber. This has the advantage that the track is all of one material so it shouldn’t warp. Its likely to work out cheaper because there are usually plenty of bits of MDF that are too narrow for track surface, but are usable in the supports.

The professionals used pinned and glued construction on MDF with extra reinforcing blocks (see diagram A). You can use a metal frame under the surface , but you have to allow for different expansion rates to avoid warping.

If this has tickled your fancy, I suggest you head on over here to read further on how to get on with your build!

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